Flogging the Dead Horse Harder: Council Committee Passes Draconian Penalties Against Sidewalk Cycling While Sidewalk Motorists Face Few Sanctions - JuniperCivic.com
Serving Middle Village and Maspeth since 1938.

Originally published in the June 2002 Juniper Berry Magazine

Flogging the Dead Horse Harder: Council Committee Passes Draconian Penalties Against Sidewalk Cycling While Sidewalk Motorists Face Few Sanctions

Pedestrians are targets

In an average year in NYC, bicycles kill no pedestrians and injure fewer than 200 pedestrians. In the same average year, motor vehicles kill 200 pedestrians and injure 11,000. But, in the last five months, this City Council has had zero hearings on street safety, zero hearings on cars on sidewalks and two hearings on bicycles on sidewalks. Councilmembers have introduced three different bills about sidewalk cycling and none have had to do with any other kind of traffic, pedestrian or bicycle safety. Cycling on the sidewalk is a real problem, and Transportation Alternatives, a transportation advocacy group (of which the Juniper Park Civic Association is an active member) opposes it, but it should be obvious that motor vehicles hurting and killing pedestrians on both the sidewalk and the streets demands the Council's attention more than the passage of ever more punitive penalties that will not be enforced by uninterested police commanders.

T.A. strongly condemns bicycling on the sidewalk, but getting cyclists off the sidewalk requires vastly better police enforcement of the strict existing laws, rather than the new draconian punishments proposed by the City Council Transportation Committee.

The punishment for bicycling on the sidewalk is now even more severe. Before the passage of the new law, sidewalk cyclists over age 14 already faced potential punishment of a criminal misdemeanor, $100 fine, 20 days in jail and the confiscation of their bike until they paid the fine. The new law creates a three tier system of sanctions:

-Riding on the sidewalk away from pedestrians: $100 fine, no bike impoundment

-Riding on the sidewalk "endangering" pedestrians: $300 and or 20 days in jail, bike impoundment

-Physical contact with a pedestrian on sidewalk: $500 or 20 days, bike impoundment

Write Transportation Committee Chair John Liu and tell him to start paying attention to the dreadful conditions pedestrians face every day on NYC's big, dangerous streets. E-mail to liu@council.nyc.ny.us. or write Councilman Liu, 250 Broadway, New York, NY 10007. Be sure to include your name and address so that your message will be taken

seriously. Please also send a copy of your message to the Juniper Park Civic Association PO Box 790275 Middle Village, NY 11379, email: juniperc@aol.com

You can read more of T.A.'s work to educate cyclists not to ride on sidewalks or register as a volunteer for our Give Respect/Get Respect campaign here.

Also read about T.A.'s work to reduce pedestrian deaths, reclaim the sidewalks and make extremely dangerous streets like Queens Boulevard safer here.

New City Council: A Disappointment on Transportation and Street Safety

In January, hopes were high that the City Council would take a new and insightful look at pedestrian and bicycling safety and big picture issues like the Carpool Rule and tolls on East River bridges. With long time T.A. friend Gifford Miller as Speaker of the City Council and the energetic John Liu as Chair of the Transportation Committee, things looked good. But, instead, Liu championed eliminating the Carpool Rule and dredged up long-time whipping boys like bicyclists riding on sidewalks; indeed, the Committee's record is defined by poorly reasoned legislation. In part, this is because the Council has done a poor job of communicating with critical agencies like the Department of Transportation and the Police Department as well as stakeholder groups like Transportation Alternatives.

In fact, the ineptness of the Council has led to opposition of city agencies to legislation that the Council has drafted to "help" them. For example, the Police oppose Intro. 157, which is intended to increase police authority to regulate "mobile billboards." Everyone loathes these annoying sign trucks that help clog the streets, but the cops oppose the measure because it will actually weaken the existing law. Likewise, the DOT seeks the authority to keep the mushrooming population of news boxes off of crowded sidewalks. But, again, the Council's bill‒14A‒is so poorly drafted that the DOT is asking the mayor to veto it.